Harvests stifled by drought

Harvests stifled by drought
Harvests stifled by drought | Drought, Corn harvests, Jeff Lannom, Pioneerm Jason Brigance

Jason Brigance, a territory manager for Pioneer Hi-Bred, was busy measuring the yield performance of two seed strains

This year will be one marked in the history books. 2012 will be known as one of the most difficult years in agriculture.
With the majority of corn harvests winding down, Weakley County farmers have seen their share of struggles thus far as they work to salvage what they can from drought-stricken acreage.
Weakley County Ag Extension Agent Jeff Lannom said he has seen 30-130 bushels of corn per acre coming out of row-crop fields across the county. He said the 40-80 bushels per acre range has been the more common harvest range. For farmers in the county, the average harvest range is 120-140 bushels per acre in a typical corn harvest season.
Lannom explained the growing season suffered blows this year when the lack of moisture and extreme temperatures took their tolls on crops.
April through August is the growing season for row-crop corn. This year, parts of the county saw a range of 6.8 to 11 inches of rain during the growing season. According to the USDA, rainfall amounts are averaged from 22-24 inches for the county.
By the first of September, farmers were well ahead of the harvest cycle as 60 percent of planted corn was being pulled out of the ground, two to three weeks ahead of average.
Other farmers attempted to salvage what they could this summer when they completely stripped their corn fields in exchange for silage.
Lannom said silage is made up of the entire corn plant and is converted into feed for livestock. The ag extension agent said many farmers were trying to supplement the lack of hay for their livestock as pasturelands wilted under this summer’s drought and temperatures.
Although producers prayed for rains that did not come this summer, Mother Nature reared her head last week as farmers were busy trying to salvage what grain they could from their fields.
Trying to shell his corn just ahead of the weekend storms, Bobby Garner ran his combine over the drought-stricken acres just off of the highway between Sharon and Greenfield on Friday afternoon hoping for the best. An earlier storm had already “felled” a small portion of the field.
“Over here I’m just getting 70-75 bushels an acre, while over here its about 150-170,” said Garner waving his arms over the section  he was harvesting that day out of his 1,300 acres. “There, over by the river it will be about 30-40.”
Close to the highway Jason Brigance, a territory manager for Pioneer Hi-Bred, measured the yield performance of two seed strains in the heart of Garner’s field he collected from his weigh wagon.
Reports from around the county show that the drought has hit the corn crop hard but the yields are widely inconsistent, just like in Garner’s field, depending on how much rainfall came down in some parts of the county.
“It’s 16 bushels to 105 bushels and everything in between,” says Jon Pritchett of Southern Milling who has been taking in some of the corn at his silos.
Of course the irrigated fields, which seem to be more prevalent  in the county than in years past, will be bringing in much larger yields. Brigance has noticed a lot more irrigation than in the past. “It seems to be going in as fast as they can drill a well,” he remarked.
“Sometimes a pop up shower can make a difference,” said Brigance  who points out that no two years are exactly the same and no two fields are alike. For that reason, he said, “We encourage farmers to look at multi-year data in multi locations.”
Brigance explained that corn has a short window during pollination of about 10 days when temperatures and moisture are critical. “Silks are about 99 percent water,” said Brigance “and when there is not adequate soil moisture, there are pollination issues.”
With corn yields well below average in the county, soybean harvests are following suit as crop conditions range from fair to poor in double-crop fields behind wheat.
“The yield potential is just not there this year,” Lannom said. The silver lining, according to Lannom, is the “looking good” status of full-season soybeans.
With such a challenging summer behind them, farmers seem anxious to sow winter wheat, although Lannom is asking for more time.
“Producers still need to scout their fields. We are still seeing scattered worm outbreaks, which have eaten a tremendous amount of grass. Planting wheat now could be challenging if the army worms are still in the fields. We are asking farmers to wait until around Oct. 10 before planting.”

WCP 9.13.12

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